Houston Heats Up: Eight Semifinalists Announced for the 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards
Everything's bigger in Texas, including the number of chefs, restaurants, bars, wine programs and more that were nominated as semifinalists in this year's James Beard Foundation Awards. You know the one -- the so-called "Oscars of the food world." It's kind of a big deal.
Photo by Jeff Balke The Goode family was recognized for their restaurant legacy in Houston.
The Lone Star State received 25 semifinalist nominations from the James Beard Foundation, ranging from restaurants in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio way out to El Paso and Marfa. But it was Houston that netted the most nods, with eight.
Oxheart and Underbelly are both semifinalists for the Best New Restaurant award, with their chefs independently nominated in two other categories: Oxheart's Justin Yu is a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, while Underbelly's Chris Shepherd is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southwest. Shepherd says he was taken by surprise this morning when he heard the news.
"I was just standing at Blacksmith getting coffee, and my sous chef calls me and says, 'You might want to check Twitter,'" Shepherd said. He laughed, thinking, "Oh no, this is going to be bad."
Of his and his restaurant's nomination, Shepherd simply said: "It's cool when you can do what you want to do and people like that. It's cool when your staff believes in it and when your cooks believe in it and when the city believes in it. That really means something to me."
Photo by Troy Fields Underbelly was one of two Houston restaurants that received two James Beard semifinalist nods this year.
Joining Shepherd in the Best Chef: Southwest category is Hugo Ortega of Hugo's. Ortega was nominated as a semifinalist last year as well, and advanced to become a finalist at the James Beard Awards in New York City, although he ultimately lost to Paul Qui.
The Goodes, a multigenerational Houston restaurant family, were also recognized by the Beard Foundation. Levi Goode of Goode Company Restaurants is a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category for the restaurants that he and his father, Jim, have made into Houston success stories over the years: Goode Co. Seafood, Goode Co. Taqueria, Armadillo Palace and Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q.
"That's amazing to me," said Shepherd, who was happy to see longtime restaurateurs recognized as well. "They started this little barbecue joint and all of a sudden it's an empire. They keep it family run. It hasn't been taken over; it's theirs and it's what they believe in."
"It's a testament to the city."